Friday, March 19, 2010

Tax cheats paying up, or not

According to the Globe and Mail, Canada Revenue Agency can:
already boast that it has unearthed six times more offshore income, $600-million, this year than last thanks to a wave of international whistleblowers and the agency's willingness to piggyback on a beefed-up campaign in the United States.
Six hundred million dollars recovered from folks who dislike income tax enough to hide assets and income overseas, in Swiss bank accounts for example. Of course, had you read last year's Northern Insights article Underground economy meets overseas economy, you would not be surprised. Or, satisfied.

While paying almost $1 billion extra in taxes and penalties, Swiss bank UBS admitted helping US citizens conceal income and UBS turned over banking records of thousands of Americans to the IRS. The tax agency, losing $100 billion annually through offshore tax abuse, was pressing other large foreign banks for similar information. The cracking of Swiss bank secrecy led to a run of voluntary disclosures as nervous tax non-payers raced to settle before IRS investigators came knocking.

More from the Globe and Mail:
In the past year, European countries with strict banking secrecy laws and low tax rates have suffered repeated blows because of employees stealing internal records and offering them up to other governments facing large deficits. The European principality of Liechtenstein, population 30,000, is still reeling after a tech worker at a division of one of its largest banks, the LGT Group, sold information on suspected tax evaders to the German authorities – data that was then distributed to tax agencies around the world, including Canada.
Fears echoed through Canadian offices. Canada Revenue Agency offers a program for voluntary disclosures that waives penalties and prosecutions. CRA collections through that program surged 600% in the last year.

But, is that satisfactory? If the USA is losing $100 billion annually to illegal offshore sheltering, a logical extrapolation indicates Canada is losing about 1/10 of that, or $10 billion a year in lost tax revenue.  Still OK with $600 million collected?
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